5 Guitar Truths - No One Will Tell You
These facts are the things people will never tell you, but they nearly always thinking. Why won’t they tell you? Simply put, most people avoid conflict if they can. There’s no reason to engage in conflict with someone if the other person is unwilling to understand or listen! We don’t listen, so they don’t bother!
I invite you to read these, then ask yourself, truthfully: “do I do this?”.
If you answer ‘yes’, then you are being real with yourself.
Take this information as a fun way to point as the things we won’t admit to ourselves, but in doing so and laughing, we could change much by listening.
You're Playing Too Loud
For gods sake, you’re playing too loud! I don’t even know who is reading this, or why, but I know if you play guitar, you’re too loud. Turn down, a lot. Learn to deal with the idea that you will have to hear others before yourself.
Because you’re playing too loud (and you are, turn down), everyone else in your band has to struggle with their gear, or their bodies in order to keep up. This means, everyone else is performing badly, and it’s your fault.
The band may not even know why they’re performing badly. It’s very common that they never actually practiced in a room with good sound, so they have no idea what that should be. They’re used to you, and other guitarists, blasting the crap out of you.
If the singer has to belt everything out (because they can’t hear themselves over you), they are literally hurting their bodies to keep up. Too much of that is a very bad thing.
If the drummer has to play harder to keep up with your noise, they’re already playing with bad technique. They are training themselves to understand the only way to rehearse is to beat your body up. Yes, it’s true that even in normal rehearsal you will sweat. But there is a line, a distinction between playing, and pushing nonstop the entire time.
For the good of your ears, your band, and your soul, turn it down a little. If you can’t hear the words of the singer, turn down until you can. Turn down until you can hear the singer breathe through the mic.
You Don't Know How To Listen
Maybe you figured out a solo here or there by ear? Perhaps you even know how to identify a few chords or even if they are inversions of chords…
Like most people, most guitar players don’t know how to listen. It may be that they never learned (bad teacher), or they think they know (ego), or they don’t think they need to because they are the big deal everyone is here for (massive ego!). Unless you are perfect, you probably need lessons.
Having a bad teacher, or no teacher is one of the big truths to not knowing how to listen. The reason I know this is because I can always identify students who have good ears, like my students do. They can pick apart literally anything they hear if they are interested, or challenged. Some students even have better ears than sight-reading ability!
Some guitarists think they already know enough. They think what they know can get them what they want, and learning anything more will simply make their creativity fall away. Can you hear the silliness of this sentence? “If I learn more, I won’t be creative”.
This is simply fear that you don’t know as much as you think you do. Guess what, you don’t. You don’t know anything. None of us do!
Now, the biggest of all, the massive ego you need, in order to convince yourself that you don’t even need to improve your ear, because everyone is already there to see you! Sometimes this is posturing (fear), other times the person actually believes it (insanity), whichever the case, you know they’re going to play with their amp too loud. That’s a fact.
The Singer Is What Most People Care About
Most people that pay money to see a band are there for the singer. Your job as a guitarist is to support the singer. You do this by turning down (so the singer can be heard), listening to what the singer is doing (getting out of the way), and reacting to things they do or say to ‘sell’ it to the audience.
The guitar is an instrument designed to be backup to the voice. Just because there are people who can do both with the instrument doesn’t mean that the general audience (people who aren’t guitar players) are interested. Mostly, they want to hear music with words, and they want the words to speak to their heart. Technique is for the practice room.
Now that you know the truth, that the singer is more important than you. What can you do to help the singer be more successful? Ask yourself this as you write, or communicate in a band setting? Does this song really need 8 guitar solos? Do you really need play a whole lot of technical stuff underneath a vocal passage? Or, would something more constrained actually help project the message better?
Perhaps one of the reasons why the singer is having pitch issues is because you are out of tune, or playing too many complex chords, obscuring the harmony too much?
Just some things to consider before the next truth below.
No One Cares About Technique
You are the fastest gun on the planet. Literally the best guitarist alive or dead. You can sweep pick like Yngwie Malmsteen, you can even play standing on your head, upside down, but somehow, it’s just not happening. You aren’t as famous as you though you should be. Why?
The cold truth is that most people simply do not care or even notice technique. They are only capable of hearing the complete product; the song. If the guitar playing is the main facet of the song, yes, they will notice that, but the playing itself, the years it took to gain the technique, that part is totally lost on the average person.
I’ll tell you a story I heard a few years back. A friend of mine goes to the NAMM show every year, in Anaheim CA. It’s a trade show for musicians. There is so much gear and stuff you literally can’t do it all. Most if not all are new products not yet available, and being endorsed by top level talent. It’s a great place to be to meet people.
Now, there are also live performances going on all the time in different sections of the show. One day, Tosin Abasi and his band were performing in one of these. This guy is an incredible talent. He’s so far above the curve it’s not even funny. The audience though, it was 99% guys, over 40, out of shape, bald, only there for the technique. Just guys who are there for the shred.
Musicians notice technique, everyone else notices the music as a whole.
I feel like this is something else that beginners struggle with. They think great guitar players = everything else as well! This isn’t true. You have to have many skills (not just guitar technique) in order to be successful!
Gear Isn't That Important, Really
It’s always awesome to go out and get that new pedal, guitar, amp, cabinet, the endless amount of stuff you can buy to play music. There’s the whole ritual right? The research, looking up stuff online, seeing what people think, listening to examples of people jamming on the gear.
Then the moment when you make your purchase. You get it, mess around, feel inspired for awhile, then that feeling goes away. Perhaps you got a few new song ideas out of the thing, whatever you bought. Maybe you got a whole album? Maybe you needed it to work? Whatever the case, eventually the feeling you had, that excitement, subsides, and then, what most people do is buy something else, in order to capture that moment again.
Gear may make you feel more creative for awhile, but at the end of the day, you need a better plan than simply, “I’ll buy something and that will help fill the void”.
The truth is that you really don’t need any of it as much as you think you do, and you certainly don’t need it to be creative. I personally know guys who have rooms full of instruments and amps and all that stuff, and they are no more creative than you are, or could be.
Ask yourself, would you be better served buying gear, or taking lessons?
Would you place yourself in a better place by spending money trying to advance your career? Do you really need this piece of gear?
Always remember that there is a giant machine that is constantly marketing new products, and trying to find unique ways to make you buy them.
End of the day, you don’t need the Ibanez, the ESP, the overdrive, the wah, the new marshall stack, whatever. The only real thing you need is time to write and practice, and you’re wasting it looking at products you don’t need! Get moving!